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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The Big Bang Theory: “The Ornithophobia Diffusion”

Illustration for article titled The Big Bang Theory: “The Ornithophobia Diffusion”
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So does this mean Priya’s completely out of the picture? After sleeping with her ex-boyfriend in “The Good Guy Fluctuation,” Priya isn’t mentioned at all in this Leonard-centric episode, as the writers delve into Leonard and Penny’s post-couple relationship. When Penny asks Leonard to accompany her to the movies, the two have their first private outing since breaking up, but they both insist it’s not a date. Of course, Leonard will always be head over heels for Penny, and she still has feelings for him as of last season’s finale, so their evening devolves into a bitching match between two frustrated ex-lovers.

Leonard has either been a non-character or an asshole this season, and he falls into the latter category this episode, revealing to Penny that most of what he did and said while they were dating was solely to get sex. Watching Jennifer Aniston movies or letting Penny eat his crispy French fries: None of it was done out of the kindness of his heart, just the desperation of his loins. And he makes sure Penny knows it, rubbing it in her face that he’s no longer obligated to give up what he wants because they’re not dating and sex is no longer an option. He makes her watch a documentary about dams, buy her own ticket, and order her own fries. It’s clearly not a date, so he shouldn’t mind when she decides to flirt with the cute screenwriter sitting behind her.

It’s a classic sitcom plot: The ex-couple tries to be just friends, but one or both people end up overtaken with jealousy once another party enters the picture. It’s nice to return to Penny and Leonard’s storyline, and while Johnny Galecki and Kaley Cuoco may have little physical chemistry, they’re a good comedic match, especially when they antagonize each other. When Leonard follows Penny’s direction and starts hitting on a girl, Penny arrives to tell her about Leonard’s two Star Trek costumes and his stash of primarily animated pornography. He criticizes her for thinking Cold Wars are only fought in winter and not being able to spell, and as they get more inflamed with each other, Leonard’s new girl has already retreated from the battlefield.

After walking up the stairs in silence, the two discuss their future in the hallway, and Penny reveals that the aggressive, decisive Leonard she saw tonight was kind of hot, but that sex was most definitely off the table. Leonard decides to be proactive and throws sex back on the table, but immediately shirks away into his initial shy persona once Penny shows him any affection. He essentially admits that he’s still interested in her, setting up the rest of the season as the slow road to their reunion, but I’m beginning to think their relationship is fundamentally flawed. To Leonard, Penny is the beautiful girl that would never give him the time of day when he was younger (much like Penny’s relationship to Amy), while Leonard is a compromise for Penny. She wants the tall guy with great cheek bones that wears dorky t-shirts and hipster glasses ironically, but those men don’t pay her attention the way Leonard does. In the past, Leonard had the heart to make up for his appearance, but he’s just unlikable this episode.

Meanwhile, in the incredibly tedious subplot, a blue jay terrorizes Sheldon from the apartment window ledge. That is the entire story, giving Jim Parsons the opportunity to show off those Emmy-winning skills by pretending to be a cat and delivering a monologue about how birds hate him. Sheldon’s bird fear is so serious that Raj, Howard, Amy, and Bernadette have to come over and help him overcome it, and it’s difficult to tell if the characters are frustrated at Sheldon or if the actors are frustrated with the writers. When Sheldon complains to Leonard, Johnny Galecki responds with an incredulous, uninterested tone that seems to be saying, “Is this really the best we can do?” When the bird perches on Bernadette’s arm, she tries to get Sheldon to pet it, gently coaxing him before slipping into an enraged yell: “Just pet the bird, you big baby!” For such a heightened intellect, Sheldon acts like a bratty child almost all the time, and it’s time the writers had him grow up. “Wild animal loose in the home” is scraping the bottom of the sitcom plots barrel, and Sheldon needs to start dropping some of his defenses, so that the writers can explore new storylines with the character.

Stray observations:

  • A hummingbird dive-bombed baby Sheldon for the apple juice in his sippy cup, and it is also Raj’s first choice for an ankle tattoo. (Technically tied with a dolphin.)
  • Penny attempts to spell “asthma”: “A—s—take me home.”
  • “Should’ve liberated the iffy chicken.”
  • “To this day, I can’t see a Sandra Bullock poster without getting both bored and aroused.”
  • “If we don’t start soon, George Lucas is going to change it again.”
  • “None of us minored in bird-shooing.”